Promoting Early Communication Skills and Self-Regulation among Poor Infants and Toddlers NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Program (Parent R21) Project Summary/Abstract Developmental disparity exists between infants and toddlers raised in poverty and their peers growing up in more affluent families. Two areas of development critical for later success in early learning environments that have shown wide socioeconomic disparity are early communication and self-regulation skills. Current programs serving poor infants and toddlers typically focus on the overall level of child care quality with less attention paid to the effectiveness of specific activities taking place in the classroom. This study aims to address this by developing and evaluating a set of activities for early childhood educators to use to promote the early communication and self-regulation skills of poor infants and toddlers in center-based care settings. The study will be conducted in three phases. First, using developmental science as a foundation for the design of the activities, drawing from the knowledge and expertise of early childhood educators through focus group discussions on the strategies they use to promote early communication and self-regulation among poor infants and toddlers, and reviewing materials and activities developed for the Abecedarian Project (an early educational intervention program for children raised in poverty with findings demonstrating positive effects into adulthood), a set of potential activities for use with children in 3 age ranges (3-12 months, 12-24 months, 24-36 months) will be generated. Second, in collaboration with infant and toddler teachers in a high quality child care center serving a diverse set of children, the effectiveness of these activities on immediate behavioral (e.g., frequencies of gestures, vocalizations, and look duration) and physiological (patterns of heart rate) indicators of early communication and self-regulation will be tested within the classroom setting. A single-case design will be used to determine if one activity is more effective at producing changes in these indicators than a different activity, and whether either activity produces any changes over baseline indicators. The goal is to develop a total of 150 activities (50 for each age range) that results suggest are most effective and teachers find to be most feasible for group care settings. In the third phase of this project, these activities will be compiled in a manual with step-by-step instructions. After completion of this study, the next phase in this line of research will be to secure funding to test the efficacy of the activities with a larger sample. These activities will ultimately form the core content for a comprehensive early childhood intervention program for infants and toddlers for use in center-based child care programs serving families living in poverty. By promoting the early communication and self-regulation skills of poor infants and toddlers, child care programs will help young children develop the skills they need to take advantage of later learning environments, thus reducing developmental disparities.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Community-Level Health Promotion Study Section (CLHP)
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Griffin, James
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University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Schools of Medicine
Chapel Hill
United States
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